At night buildings take on a new character; all of the lines, lights and colour can create new forms. That is why I find the city at night so aesthetically pleasing. Amongst all of the shapes I am looking for leading lines. These lines may be created from a road leading up to a building, or it may be part of the structure of another building, but the end result is that they are a device I can use to draw the viewers eye in to the scene.
Another thing I look for is anomalies. This could be something as simple as all of the lights on a building being switched on except for one. Humans are very good at quickly spotting these patterns, or breaks in them, so they make for interesting focal points.
When it comes to setting up a shot, I prefer to be unprepared. Often, I will go to photograph a specific building and just start exploring all the different angles or perspectives I can shoot from. It’s a natural experience and it allows me to stay creative. If I plan a shot precisely, knowing when the sunlight would hit a particular spot on a certain day and time I can go and wait and take that image. But if I have few expectations I just keep shooting as I never know how the light and shadows, and reflections will all play with each other.
Earlier this year I was standing in Time Square, New York and like every tourist I glanced up and spun my head to take in all of the neon lights and buildings towering over me. So, I pulled out my FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens and took a shot looking up with all the buildings drawing the eye in to the traffic lights in the middle of the image. Looking up nearly always creates interesting images as so few people see the world in this way.
I have also added the new FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master lens to my kit, and I’m enjoying having the extra 1EV of light to use. I’m quite happy to shoot handheld with this lens thanks to the amount of light it lets in, and I know I can push the ISO sensitivity up on the Alpha 7R III and the image quality is still great. I like shooting handheld if I can because it gives me more freedom to shoot and explore, but of course, if I want to catch a shoot a long exposure or an astro shot I will obviously put the camera on a tripod.
Recently I used the FE 20mm f/1.8 lens to shoot the Neowise comet in the sky above Bodiam Castle. There was a lot going on in the image, but I had to make some key decisions about how I wanted to place everything in the scene. I knew that the comet would be low in the sky, and I also wanted the reflection in the moat to add some foreground interest, so I set up to shoot with the comet in the sky directly above one of the castle turrets. Structurally I wanted the castle to be the first thing that drew the person in to the image, then you would notice the stars in the sky, before finally spotting the comet.
Although I love my super wide-angle lenses, my work isn’t just about using those. I learnt photography by using a 35mm lens, so I still enjoy using that focal length for more conventional shots. I think it is important to know what lens, or focal length to use and why you are using it, and that often just comes from experience. I will usually have the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master lens in my bag to cover a range of focal lengths and allow to shoot multiple images in a series to try and construct some kind of story. And I also use the FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master lens, but due to the extra size and weight I will really only take it on shoots where I know I will definitely use it, such as when I am shooting from a rooftop and I may want to capture a particular building’s architecture or feature in the distance.
One of the most important pieces of advice I can offer anyone shooting architecture is to make sure that you get everything right in-camera before you stop shooting. Trying to line-up everything perfectly when shooting with a super wide-angle lens can be tricky. For example, the Justice Palace in Vienna was a dream to shoot. There are so many lines. I shot the image at 16mm and when you’re shooting this wide you need to make sure that absolutely everything is perfectly straight otherwise it won’t line up. On the Alpha 7R III I always use the grid lines and leave them switched on. They help me make sure that all the lines are straight, whilst the level guide means I can check that my camera is also level with the ground. And after you have taken the shot, make sure you check it on the screen once more before you walk away.